Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Cracow, on May 18, 1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His elder brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941.
He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Cracow’s Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.
The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.
In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Cracow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Cracow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the “Rhapsodic Theatre,” also clandestine.
After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Cracow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Cracow on November 1, 1946.
Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium, and Holland.
NICHOLAS DIAT: At the end his pontificate, in 2012, Benedict XVI insisted on celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Why are there so many divisions over the last Council, even today?
In order to help us see that everything at the heart of the conciliar documents was centered on and oriented toward God, Benedict XVI invited us to focus our attention on the way in which the are ordered. He says that the architecture of these documents has an essentially theocentric orientation. Let us begin with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium. The fact that it is the first document to be published indicates that there were dogmatic and pastoral reasons of the utmost importance. Before all else, in the Church, there is adoration; and therefore God. This beginning, says Benedict XVI, corresponds to the first and chief concern of the Rule of Saint Benedict: “Nihil operi Dei praeponatur” (Nothing should be preferred to the work of God). Now, if there is one reality too often left out of consideration, it is certainly the consubstantial relation between the liturgy and God. The foundation of the liturgy must remain the search for God. We can only be dismayed by the fact that this intention of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and of the Council Fathers as well, is often obscured and , worse yet, betrayed…
Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery for Divine Worship, expressly mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that expressed in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the “ordinary” one.
Indeed, I can say that when I was received in audience by the Holy Father last April, Pope Francis asked me to study the question of a reform of a reform and the way in which the two forms of the Roman rite could enrich each other. This will be a long and delicate work and I ask for your patience and prayers. But if we are to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully, if we are to achieve what the Council desired, this is a serious question which must be carefully studied and acted on with the necessary clarity and prudence in prayer and total submission to God.
At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the extraordinary liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.
Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France:
IT ISWITHGREATJOY that we have learnt today that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked you to commence a study of the reform of the liturgical reform that followed the Council, and to investigate the possibilities of mutual enrichment between the older and newer forms of the Roman rite, first spoken of by Pope Benedict XVI.
C’est avec une grande joie que nous avons appris aujourd’hui que le Saint-Père vous a demandé d’initier une étude de la «réforme» de la réforme liturgique qui suivit le Concile, et d’étudier les possibilités d’un enrichissement mutuel entre l’ancienne et la nouvelle forme du rit romain, ce que le pape Benoît XVI avait évoqué le premier.
YOUREMINENCE, your appeal that we “return as soon as possible to a common orientation” in our liturgical celebrations “Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes,” is an invitation to a radical rediscovery of something that is at the very roots of Christian liturgy. It calls us to realise once again, in all our liturgical celebrations, that Christian liturgy is essentially oriented to Christ whose coming we await in joyful hope.
Eminence, votre appel à ce que nous «retournions dès que possible à une orientation commune» dans nos célébrations liturgiques «vers l’Orient ou au moins vers l’abside, là où vient le Seigneur», est une invitation à redécouvrir radicalement quelque chose qui est à la racine même de la liturgie chrétienne. Cela exige de nous de réaliser une fois encore, dans toutes nos célébrations, que la liturgie chrétienne est essentiellement orientée vers le Christ dont nous attendons la venue avec une espérance joyeuse.
YOUREMINENCE,I am only one bishop of one diocese in the south of France. But in response to your appeal I wish to announce now, that certainly on the last Sunday of Advent of this year in my celebration of the Holy Eucharist at my cathedral, and on other occasions as appropriate, I shall celebrate ad orientem—towards the Lord who comes. Before Advent I shall address a letter to my priests and people on this question to explain my action. I shall encourage them to follow my example. I shall ask them to receive my personal testimony, as the chief pastor of the diocese, in the spirit of one who wishes to call his people to rediscover the primacy of grace in their liturgical celebrations through this practice. I shall explain that this change will help us to recall the essential nature of Christian worship: that it must always be oriented to the Lord.
Monsieur le Cardinal, je suis seulement un évêque et ne représente qu’un diocèse du sud de la France. Mais afin de répondre à votre appel, je souhaite dire dès à présent que j’aurai l’occasion de célébrer la sainte messe ad orientem, vers le Seigneur qui vient, dans la cathédrale de Toulon lors du dernier dimanche de l’Avent, et chaque fois que l’occasion opportune se présentera. Avant l’Avent, j’adresserai un message à mes prêtres et aux fidèles à ce sujet pour expliquer ma décision. Je les encouragerai à suivre cet exemple. En tant que chef et pasteur de mon diocèse, je leur demanderai de recevoir mon témoignage personnel, dans l’idée de faire leur faire redécouvrir, par la pratique de la messe orientée, la primauté de la grâce au cours des célébrations. J’expliquerai que ce changement est utile pour se rappeler la nature essentiel du culte chrétien: tout doit être toujours tourné vers le Seigneur.
Father Lombardi concluded by saying that all of what he had said in his communique “was agreed upon during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.”
Cardinal Sarah met the Pope in private audience on Saturday, soon after his return from London.
Even if, of course, it cannot be the aim of this short reflection to delineate in some fashion the ministry of the patriarch in its entirety, I would at least like to underline a point that is important for the characterization of this great man of the Church of God: his love for creation and his advocacy that it be dealt with in accordance with this love, in matters big and small. A shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ is never oriented merely to the circle of his own faithful. The community of the Church is universal also in the sense that it includes all of reality. That becomes evident, for example, in the liturgy, which signifies not only the commemoration and realization of the saving deeds of Jesus Christ. It is on the way toward the redemption of all creation. In the liturgy’s orientation to the East, we see that Christians, together with the Lord, want to progress toward the salvation of creation in its entirety. Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, is at the same time also the “sun” that illumines the world. Faith is also always directed toward the totality of creation. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew fulfills an essential aspect of his priestly mission precisely with his commitment to creation. – Travel companions · A reflection of Benedict XVI · Oct. 12, 2016 | L’Osservatore Romano (My emphasis)
I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.
And so, dear Fathers, I humbly and fraternally ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their backs to me and not their faces” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord! Since the day of his Baptism, the Christian knows only one direction: the Orient. “You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the East (ad Orientem), for one who renounces the devil turns towards Christ and fixes his gaze directly on Him” (From the beginning of the Treatise on the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan).
Renewing his invitation to priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem, accompanied by catechesis, he said:
This way of doing things promotes silence. Indeed, there is less of a temptation for the celebrant to monopolize the conversation. Facing the Lord, he is less tempted to become a professor who gives a lecture during the whole Mass, reducing the altar to a podium centered no longer on the cross but on the microphone! The priest must remember that he is only an instrument in Christ’s hands, that he must be quiet in order to make room for the Word, and that our human words are ridiculous compared to the one Eternal Word.
I am convinced that priests do not use the same tone of voice when they celebrate facing East. We are so much less tempted to take ourselves for actors, as Pope Francis says!
“GOD WILLING, THE REFORM OF THE REFORM WILL TAKE PLACE” (par. 257)
I refuse to waste time in opposing one liturgy to another, or the rite of Saint Pius V to that of Blessed Paul VI. What is needed is to enter into the great silence of the liturgy; one must allow oneself to be enriched by all the Latin or Eastern liturgical forms that favor silence. Without this contemplative silence, the liturgy will remain an occasion of hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and our communion in the Lord. It is high time to enter into this liturgical silence, facing the Lord, that the Council wanted to restore.
What I am about to say now does not enter into contradiction with my submission and obedience to the supreme authority of the Church. I desire profoundly and humbly to serve God, the Church, and the Holy Father, with devotion, sincerity, and filial attachment. But this is my hope: if God wills, when he may will and how he may will, in the liturgy, the reform of the reform will take place. In spite of the gnashing of teeth, it will take place, because the future of the Church is at stake.
Damaging the liturgy means damaging our relationship with God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. The Word of God and the doctrinal teaching of the Church are still listened to, but the souls that want to turn to God, to offer him the true sacrifice of praise and worship him, are no longer captivated by liturgies that are too horizontal, anthropocentric, and festive, often resembling noisy and vulgar cultural events. The media have completely invaded and turned into a spectacle the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of our souls. The sense of mystery disappears through changes, through permanent adaptations, decided in autonomous and individual fashion in order to seduce our modern profaning mentalities, marked by sin, secularism, relativism, and the rejection of God.
In many western countries, we see the poor leaving the Catholic Church because it is under siege by ill-intentioned persons who style themselves intellectuals and despise the lowly and the poor. This is what the Holy Father must denounce loud and clear. Because a Church without the poor is no longer the Church, but a mere “club.” Today, in the West, how many temples are empty, closed, destroyed, or turned into profane structures in disdain of their sacredness and their original purpose. So I know how many priests and faithful there are who live their faith with extraordinary zeal and fight every day to preserve and enrich the dwellings of God.